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Linguaholic

An English Teacher's Pet Peeve


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If there's one thing that has complicated my life as an English teacher, it would be these electronic devices we're all so addicted to nowadays. It seems that no matter how many times I tell my students to turn them off at the beginning of class, my lesson is invariably interrupted by one of them going off. Add to that the potential for cheating that exists when a student can find virtually anything just by glancing at his palm! But to me, the most serious threat posed by devices has to do with security. It's very easy for a student to snap a photograph of a test and circulate it among his friends. At our Institute, tests are standardized, so when one gets out, it means some teacher like me has to spend hours and hours making a new one. If I could wave a magic wand and keep these devices -- my pet peeve -- out of the classroom, I would do it!

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When I clicked on this thread, I thought that your pet peeve was going to be that students use "text message" language on their class and home work. I see where you're coming from though. Mobile devices have complicated things in the classroom to a degree. I'm curious though if maybe you could collect the devices before class starts? Or if someones phone does go off during class just keep it at your desk until class is over and then return it at the end of the lesson?

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You could always enact punishments on the students you catch with their devices on. My high school teachers would chew out anyone with an audible ring tone. It's plain disrespectful, and they should know that. Don't let them get away with just a warning; take their phones away for the class or give them detention.

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If you truly want to regulate and keep track of cellphones, I believe this is the best way to do it:

Buy a few small transparent/semi-transparent boxes such as those "really useful boxes" that they sell at Office Depot. They should be slightly bigger than a typical cellphone (although they are making bigger smartphones which may complicate things).

Place one box between every two to four seats/desks. Depending on how desks are arranged, this may be easy for some classrooms and hard for others.

Form a class policy that states students must put their electronic devices in the boxes at the beginning of class and may not take them out until the end. If at any time the device rings or makes noise, students should ignore it and keep on working. The primary reason why this works is because the cell phones are literally in front of the student's face, and as a result, they do not feel as if they don't have it with them. On the other hand, it is in a box so it can't be reached. This makes the students more comfortable though they cannot use the cellphone in class.

Every time a student wants to leave the room for any reason such as going to the restroom, ask for the cellphone. This serves two reason: first, it insures a speedy return from the student; second, they won't be making an excuse to check their cellphone.

Over time, you will begin to recognize which cellphones are whose and which students do not have cellphones. From that, you can occasionally check in with the students to make sure they are following this procedure.

All in all, I this is a great method to prevent cellphone usage during class while not actually depriving students of their cellphones. It is effective for students to learn without distractions.

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Around here we usually just take their phones before any test is given out. During classes students are expected to keep them silent or turned off, and if they use them in any way, teachers can just take them away. If students refuse to turn them in, they're expelled from class, and usually some disciplinary action is taken.

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I don't think taking a picture of the test is any different than memorizing it, or whatever.  What I would do as a teacher is have 3 or 4 versions of the test, all very similar but slightly different, and give a version to each class. Most people who cheat do so the easiest way possible (memorizing answers) and this would cause them to fail the test.  When you compared their answers to the answer sheet for the other version and it matched perfectly, then you could show they were cheating (and if you designed it right, they got a 0 anyway).

If students know you have 4 versions of every test, they also know that it will not benefit them to cheat, but to actually learn the material.

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I teach English to Koreans and what I dislike much is that they often forget what you have just taught them even if you have been teaching him the correct pronunciation of the same word each day. :) They also are used to using electronic dictionary and most of the time, the meanings of words are rather different.

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There are lots of ways to take controll of your classroom. I just don't know how far you are allowed to take it though. Most of our schools do not allow students to have their phones in class.If they are caught it is taken from them and their parents have collect it or they can collect it at the end of the school term.

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  • 2 months later...

I taught ESL for awhile, and I still tutor ESL at this time. My biggest pet peeve is when students do not capitalize the letter "i". Instead of writing "I" they write "i". An example of this is: "i walked to the store" instead of "I walked to the store". It drives me crazy!

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I think this is not as much a sin of technology but of the erosion of discipline and respect in an academic setting.  I think the schools should enforce policies for discipline since you are correct, a disruption affects the entire class.

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Granted it was years ago when I was in school, but when I was, if we had a cell phone in the classroom and were caught with it, it was confiscated.

Perhaps you could get a basket and on test or quiz days pass that around and offer some kind of a small bonus (one point perhaps) for each student that places their device in the basket. They can then pick them up when they are leaving the classroom at the end of the period.

And of course if they are caught with a device that they didn't turn in during the test/quiz, they would automatically fail that days work.

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I can see your very real concern for genuine engagement and learning in the classroom. I once had my child's teacher say to me that spelling was not that big of a deal since computers and other devices have spell-check on them. I was shocked and speechless.

Are you or the school able to enforce some sort of rule for such devices? If nothing else, having the kids deposit then temporarily into a box in the classroom until the end of the class. If they complain that it takes to long to get them at the end and get to their next class, perhaps there is the option of leaving them at home? Now, there's a novel idea...

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